1769 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Taylor the Water Poet

James Granger, in Biographical History of England (1769; 1824) 2:135.



John Taylor, a native of Gloucester, was intended by his parents for a scholar; but his inclination not leading him to learning, though it did to poetry, he was taken from school before he had gone through his Accidence, and bound apprentice to a waterman. After he had quitted the oar, he kept a victualling-house in the Phoenix-alley, Long-acre, where he hung up his own head for a sign, with this inscription:

There's many a head stands for a sign
Then, gentle reader, why not mine?

He, according to Mr. Wood, did great service to the royal cause, in the reign of Charles I. by his lampoons and pasquils. The works of Taylor, which are not destitute of natural humour, abound with low jingling wit, which pleased and prevailed in the reign of James I. He was countenanced by a few persons of rank and ingenuity, but was the darling and admiration of the rabble. He was himself the father of some cant words, and has adopted others which were only in the mouths of the lowest vulgar. His rhyming spirit did not evaporate with his youth; he held the pen much longer than he did the oar, and was the poetaster of half a century. Ob. 1654, Aet. 74.